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Menstrual cramps: Expert-approved exercises for dysmenorrhea

Dysmenorrhea is a cramping pain that women may encounter in their lower abdomen during or before their periods. © Shutterstock

Get to know more about dysmenorrhea and what to do to make your periods less painful from Dr Madhuri Burande Laha, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospital, Kharadi, Pune.

Written by Editorial Team |Updated : March 17, 2021 9:29 AM IST

Periods are often unpleasant for some women! One may be worried a lot when there is cramping and pain during those four days or before that. This surely can steal your peace of mind. But you will be shocked to know that exercising can help you deal with dysmenorrhea, also known as painful periods or menstrual cramps. Get to know more about dysmenorrhea and how to stay fit and fine during your periods from Dr Madhuri Burande Laha, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospital, Kharadi, Pune.

Are you unable to do your daily chores due to excessive cramping during menstruation? Do you often skip work on the first day of your period? Find it difficult to concentrate on your work or tend to postpone your important meeting owing to the period pain? Then, you will have to do what it takes to make your periods less painful as cramps during periods are no joke. One may feel it's inconvenient and even uncomfortable! says the gynaecologist.

What is Dysmenorrhea?

Dysmenorrhea also known as menstrual cramps can be described as cramping pain that women may encounter in their lower abdomen during or before their periods. Moreover, you will be unable to stick to your daily routine owing to these notorious menstrual cramps. There are two types of dysmenorrhea. One is spasmodic dysmenorrhea that start from the first day of menses and last for 1-2 days or throughout one's menses. The second one is congestive dysmenorrhea which starts feeling days prior to menses and gets better once menses starts. The primary or spasmodic dysmenorrhea occurs as the uterus tends to contract to expel the endometrium lining with blood. Secondary dysmenorrhea is typically caused by endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

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Symptoms of dysmenorrhea include abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, tiredness, painful menses, low back pain, and headaches.

Treatment of dysmenorrhea involves oral contraceptives, dietary changes, vitamin supplements, exercise, hot therapy, or hot bath. Abdominal massage can do the trick too.

Know how exercise can help in managing dysmenorrhea

Exercising helps to get that much-needed relief from the menstrual cramps in a natural way. It releases happy hormones called endorphins that help block pain receptors in one's brain. Hence, the brain doesn't give you cramp signals anymore as the uterus gets contracted.

When there is cramping, one's uterus contracts and there is not enough blood flow. Exercising relieves cramps by enhancing the blood circulation to the whole body including the uterus and opens up the blood vessels. The happy hormones like endorphins and serotonin released while exercising lighten up your mood. The bonus point- you will be able to de-stress, beat anxiety and stay happy.

High-intensity exercises like running may not be advisable for you. But you can surely opt for yoga and even breathing exercises to deal with stress, improve flexibility, endurance and strength. Below are some yoga poses suggested by Dr Laha to help manage your period pain.

Cat/cow pose

It helps release tension and enhances blood circulation to your pelvis.

  • After getting down on your hands and knees, see to it that your hands are under your shoulders and knees are under the hips. Once you take a deep breath, try to lower your abdomen to the ground. Stretch your head and the bottom and this is called the cow pose.
  • Then, while changing the position, inhale and while breathing out, you will need to curl your back to the sky by stretching your head and the bottom towards the ground. This is known as cat pose which helps manage period cramping.

Cobra pose

This pose is good for period cramps and back pain associated with menstruation.

  • Try to place your hands in a palms-down position on the ground that is beneath the shoulders.
  • What you need to do is strengthen your arms by lifting up your chest from the ground.
  • Keep your abdomen, gluteals, and back muscles engaged by looking upwards.

Head to knee pose

This pose helps support the digestive and reproductive system and get rid of menstrual cramps, nausea, headaches, vomiting, and tiredness.

  • See that you extend the right leg, make sure the sole of your left foot gets placed on the right inner thigh.
  • Try to center the torso over your right leg and make sure it is folded forward.

Other exercises that can help in managing period pain are aerobics, walking, cycling, and light stretches. For less painful periods, Dr Laha suggests sticking to a proper fitness regimen.

According to her, one should not go overboard while exercising. Also, before initiating any fitness routine, she suggests consulting a doctor and exercise under the guidance of a fitness trainer.

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